Is Alison Redford a rogue politician or does she belong to a rogue party?
A rogue is a dishonest or unprincipled man (or woman), a scoundrel, villain, miscreant, reprobate, good-for-nothing, ne’re-do-well, wretch, louse, crook.
The word “rogue” entered the lexicon of Alberta politics after Auditor General Merwan Saher reviewed Alison Redford’s use of government aircraft and found that somebody booked “false passengers” onto government flights in order to block seats and then unbooked them so that Ms Redford and her entourage could have the plane all to themselves. This is almost as spooky as that episode of Sherlock Holmes where the government packed a plane with dead people who would be blown up in order to avoid revealing that the government had cracked a terrorist code.
Politicians from both sides of the aisle are outraged, demanding that Ms Redford be ousted from caucus, resign her seat, be investigated by the RCMP and/or be tarred and feathered and run out of town.
George Rogers, Deputy Speaker, said “At some point when someone basically goes rogue, what do you do? You have got to jettison that baggage.”*
This has got to stop
Of the three PC leadership candidates, Mr Prentice has been the most vocal about how he’d deal with rogue politicians and government officials.
He’s going to impose rules and discipline. “It’s about the tone from the top. We’ll change the rules, we’ll enforce the rules, and there will be real discipline around that. I promise you that. But that won’t do it in and of itself, because people will break the rules, and they’ll break the rules if they see the person at the top breaking the rules. That’s how leadership works.”**
It’s easy to sound righteous in the abstract. So Mr Prentice needs to put his high-flown oratory into practice right now.
How? By buttressing his promise to “change the rules, enforce the rules and discipline by the rules” by identifying the MLAs and elected officials who deserve sanction and promising to do something about them if he gets elected. Unlike Ms Redford (who it must be remembered is not yet been found guilty of anything) the Tory government includes a number of MLAs and government officials who have violated our trust.
The rogues’ gallery
The ethics commissioner, Neil Wilkinson, had no difficulty approving the Tory government’s decision to appoint Evan Berger, the defeated Tory cabinet minister, to a senior policy advisor post even though the appointment violated Alberta’s conflict of interest laws.
The ethics commissioner was equally sanguine about Tory MLA Peter Sandu’s failure to disclose six lawsuits against his financially troubled home-building company or his lobbying the government to change legislation in favour of his home-building company.
Mr Sandu resigned his seat as a Tory MLA to sit as an independent. His fellow MLA Mike Allen also became an independent after he was caught in a prostitution sting and charged with soliciting while on government business in Minnesota. He pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor and was fined $500.
The Tory caucus voted to bring both Mr Sandu and Mr Allen back into the fold last December.
Instead of piling onto the “get Redford” bandwagon, Mr Prentice can do something remarkable.
He can promise to oust Mr Sandu and Mr Allen from caucus for violating the public trust. He can promise to review the performance of the ethics commissioner who appears to think his job is nothing more that providing air cover for the inappropriate or illegal actions of MLAs and their staff. Lastly, Mr Prentice can promise to ask Agriculture Minister Verlyn Olson to terminate Mr Berger’s contract because it violates Alberta’s conflict of interest rules that require a one year cooling off period before a former government minister can work for the public service in an area in which he’s had significant dealings.
If Mr Prentice is reluctant to act because these decisions were made a year ago he can turn his attention to a recent decision that came to light around the same time as the licence plate debate.
Mr Prentice can promise to reverse Finance Minister Horner’s decision to give senior public servants a 7% pay raise over two years because it is a blatant violation of last year’s announcement that the compensation paid to top public servants would be frozen for three years.
Mr Horner’s about-face is even more egregious because when he announced the 3-year wage freeze he couldn’t resist saying “Our government is leading by example.”
Based on that statement alone Mr Prentice should promise to oust Mr Horner for making the government look smug, self-righteous and hypocritical. Okay, maybe that last bit is over the top…the PC government is always smug, self-righteous and hypocritical.
Mr Prentice’s other alternative is to follow in Ralph Klein’s footsteps—unleash the spin doctors and turn himself into a lovable rogue—frankly I can’t see that working anymore, can you?
*Calgary Herald, July 30, 2014, A4
**Calgary Herald Online, July 14, 2014